The day Ryan Suter signed with the Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators GM David Poile said signing Shea Weber to a long-term contract immediately became his priority. Apparently, he wasn't alone in that thought process.
With the news of the Philadelphia Flyers' huge offer sheet to Weber comes the realization that one way or the other, he's off the market. Knowing how calculated Poile is, he'll likely take his time making this decision, but either Nashville matches the Flyers' offer or Philadelphia gets its replacement for Chris Pronger. If the Predators take the draft picks, it will leave Nashville with two franchise defensemen to replace in one summer, along with roughly $14 million to spend just to get to the salary cap floor.
The franchise that loses out on Weber is far from alone. Teams such as Detroit, Pittsburgh, San Jose and Edmonton that covet a defenseman of Weber's caliber now have to move on to Plan B, a plan not nearly as appealing as landing a player who should be a Norris Trophy contender for the next decade. With Suter and Weber gone, options on defense are getting thinner and thinner.
NHL general managers clearly have been anticipating the shortage of elite available defensemen. At first glance, the contract GM George McPhee gave Mike Green (three years, $18.25 million) seemed generous for a player who has struggled to stay on the ice. But considering the lack of suitable replacements, it suddenly doesn't look bad at all. And the run on defensemen during the June draft that led to forwards such as Filip Forsberg and Mikhail Grigorenko slipping out of the top 10 and Chicago getting a steal in Teuvo Teravainen at No. 18 are other indications of how much teams value defensemen. After Nail Yakupov was selected with the No. 1 overall pick, eight of the next nine picks were defensemen.
So with Weber no longer an option, what does that leave teams looking for help on defense in the next year?
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